‘This needs to be resolved now’: 2 state lawmakers react to Birmingham Water Works audit
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Two state lawmakers from Jefferson County said Wednesday the new Birmingham Water Works Board audit of its billing problems raised troubling questions about the utility’s direction and leadership.
“This billing issue has been a problem for more than a year and they haven’t been able to find a solution,” said Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mt. Brook). “And the fact that they are relying on estimated numbers as heavily as they are, or seem to be, begs the question of what can be done about this.”
“Dan and I and the other members of the senate receive numerous telephone calls, emails, texts of people complaining, crying, cursing about the bills they’re getting--and this needs to be resolved now,” said Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills). “I hope the water works board can solve their own problems, that’s where they need to be resolved. If they can’t, it may take legislation again, which will be controversial, it’ll be a debated issue. But hopefully they can clean up the problems in house and we won’t have to be involved.”
The audit released on Wednesday confirms our exclusive reporting last night that the utility has now been behind on bills for more than a year, and at one point was behind on almost half of its residential accounts - and didn’t notify the board about the problem until months after it started.
The audit calls for more training for everyone from the general manager down to billing department employees and warns the utility may have overcharged more than 10,000 customers.
“I would hope that we’re gonna look at this,” said Water Works Board Vice Chairman Butch Burbage. “What can we do to better this in the future? Because that’s what this whole thing is about: the future not only for the board, but the employees and most importantly our customers.”
This comes as the board voted Wednesday to propose raising rates by 3.9% on average next year. The BWWB will hold a public hearing on their budget and proposed rate increase on November 9 at 5:30 p.m. at BWWB headquarters.
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